The Daily Grind Video

Young British actor John Boyega, star of Attack The Block, the soon to be classic teenage sci-fi film about a band of friends defending their block from an alien invasion, spoke to GlobalGrind last Friday by phone from San Diego where he was to attend a screening of the film during the Annual Comic-Con.

Boyega, 19, grew up in South London and Attack The Block is his first film. This is not, however, the first time he’s acted. Continue reading to learn more about this star in making.

GlobalGrind: Congratulations on the film, it’s tremendous!

John Boyega: Thank you! Thank you very much.

What’s been the reaction in the UK?

It’s been good, very positive. People really seem to dig the film. Young people enjoy it and ’80s movie fans really dig it. It went well, it’s doing really well.

We hope it does really well here as well.

Fingers crossed on that one!

Attack The Block is very unique for a lot of different reasons. Mainly it’s multi-cultural, multi-ethnic and its sci-fi. And, usually with American films, you don’t really see that type of casting. Or that kind of story being put out there. Can you talk about the audition process? 

It was long audition process. Joe Cornish saw about 1500 kids and we did some improvisation in the first audition and we got sent a one-page dialogue for the beginning scene. And we had to come in and read it. I got recalled and, at the time, I was doing my first job at the Transco Theatre in North London. Then Joe Cornish, the director and Ira Park, the producer and Nina Gold, the casting director, came down to see me in the play. I had already had like 10 minutes on the stage. And after that, they came and gave me another recall and then we had time to bond with the others in the casting. I got the part and then we just got the ball rolling. 

How exciting was it to do your own stunts?

It was fun, it was really fun! It was great, fantastic! You know what? I was scared for some of them, but for others I powered through them. I kept thinking, ‘What would Moses do?’

Was there a particular scene that you enjoyed doing?

I enjoyed doing the hero run, that was really fun to shoot. I felt like Bruce Willis, man. I really enjoyed filming that scene. It was really, really fun.

The scene where you are hanging on the Union Jack was pretty heroic. 

Yeah and you know what, how proud I am of that scene? That was all me, no stunt double at all. 


You started acting at an early age, at the age of five in school at that. What was the moment that made you decide that this is what you want to do with the rest of your life?

I guess when I got accepted into a local theatre group, which was literally like a five minute walk from my house. It was a local theater group which was in my Estate and they invited people in to come and see the talent of the kids. It started off as something fun, then turned into a hobby and now it turned into a career. It’s something that I take very, very seriously and something I’m very, very passionate about. So when I started getting involved into these local places, I thought, I would love to do this for the rest of my life.

One of the earliest theater experiences you had was in school where you played a part in an Anansi, The Spider story. 

Yeah, my teacher was reading a book about Anansi and she said, ‘Let’s get some students to act out this scene.” And I thought, ‘Hell, yeah! Lets do this!’ After being on all fours, I gave this character a character break down, details. I gave him great facial expressions. It was amazing! I just remember being on all fours and thinking, ‘This is actually pretty good.’ People thought I was good, too. From there, I just wanted to do it over and over again.


Jumping forward to this film: You worked with a great animal behaviorist actor.

Terry Notary. He was in Avatar. He is one of the monkeys in the Rise of the Planet of the Apes. He was just amazing to work with. He took his job very, very seriously. He made us feel genuinely fair while filming the scenes. He was great.

Did he give you any tips?

He was just like, ‘John, just be more in it. Don’t care about what’s going on around you.’ He was just very much proactive.

You’ve also been working on your American accent.

[In a flat American accent] Oh, I have! Yeah, we have to do that!

Is it difficult to slip into an American accent?

Well, not any more! It used to be more difficult but now I’m getting used to it because I’m hearing you guys talk. The way you sound now, I’m just trying. I’m just copying basically. I’m running around stealing accents!


Where are you calling from now?

I’m calling from San Diego.

Oh, you’re at the Comic-Con!

Oh, I got a great view of Comic-Con! I feel like I built the building. I feel like I’m just controlling all the nerds going in there. It looks amazing! I can’t wait to go there and see what’s going on.

I know you’ve seen some crazy costumes so far.

You know what? I haven’t. I haven’t gotten my binoculars out; I haven’t seen crazy, crazy costumes so far.

Is there a screening there?

Yes, there is a screening there tonight. It’s going to be very, very good. I’m very excited.

Were you into comics growing up?

Yeah! Yeah, I was just reading the Civil War comic books that are  part of The Avengers. I’m very excited to see Captain America. I hope it does well and stuff. I’m also into manga.


What are or who are some of the American actors you are interested in working with? Looking at you on screen, you look like a young Denzel Washington. As soon as we saw you, we were like, Will Smith is going to call this guy and he’s going to want to want to work with him. 

Oh, wow! There are people that inspire me. I love Will Smith and love what he’s done so far. I was actually at Overbrook Entertainment recently. I was at their brunch in L.A., in Beverly Hills a couple of days ago. And I spoke to someone on his team and stuff. It was very great how Hollywood has accepted me and given me a warm hug, just looking for the next thing really.

The character you play is sort of a strong silent type. But he’s silent because he comes from a very dark place. What other, if any, similarities do you guys have? Do you have anything in common with Moses? 

Well because Moses is a character I created from scratch, I created him like a father, like Frankenstein I created another person. I related to how he’s friends with the boys. I share that and I get that’s why he did those things because he lost his brothers and stuff. That part I can relate to, feeling great about the people I have around me. I am very grounded and I think that’s what me and Moses share.

What’s been the response from your friends?

It’s been good, they think it’s art! The really, really enjoy the film. They found it weird, they said things like, ‘Oh my God, John! You’re running over surfers and fighting aliens. It’s weird seeing you like that, normally we see you in your house with your PlayStation 3.’ It’s weird to see how their little friend they know in that kind of format. So it’s been good.


Your next project is a film called Junk Heart? What’s that about?

Junk Heart is about a solider who suffers from post traumatic stress and he’s trying to get over what’s happened in the war. A young teenage girl befriends him and tricks him into using his trap in a drug trafficking safe house. It’s a deep, dark feature film directed by Tinge Krishnan, who went to film school with Joe Cornish. So, it’s great to be working on another great low budget indie, but I originally got signed by Creative Arts Agency and Alice Gar’s management and the scripts I’ve been getting from them, the roles, have been very diverse. It’s great that people are not really just keeping me in bad-ass roles, they also think I can play a sensitive role or I can play this or that. It’s just very, very cool.

You have a strong theater background. It seems like lots of UK actors have a theater background as well. Do you see yourself returning to theater soon or you are just going to take it as it comes?

Yeah, I think we planned this career very strategically. I want to give the audience what they want to get from me, give them the best I can give them. Whether it’s on stage or in a film, ideally, I feel as if people are expecting another film. They want to see me on screen again, which is something I want to do. Theater is an option, it’s not closed off so it should be cool.

In a previous interview, you said you would love to do more films with a British accent. Do you feel the pressure to learn the American accent? Because you are about to get more work here? 

The pressure is really hard. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s cool because I’ve learned the American accent watching your films. I like to create other people to play, I don’t mind. There’s no pressure in that one, my team is very strict and very much getting me prepared for what I have to do.I’m excited really.

Can you do a Nigerian accent? You’re part Nigerian.

[In a thick Nigerian accent] Yes, of course!